World leaders adopted a high-level United Nations political declaration on universal health coverage (UHC) this week — the most comprehensive set of health commitments ever adopted at this level.
“This declaration represents a landmark for global health and development,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “The world has 11 years left to make good on its sustainable development goals, and universal health coverage is key to ensuring that happens.”
In adopting the declaration, UN member states have committed to advance towards UHC by investing in four major areas around primary healthcare.
These include mechanisms to ensure no one suffers financial hardship because they have had to pay for healthcare out of their own pockets and implementing high-impact health interventions to combat diseases and protect women’s and children’s health
In addition, countries must strengthen health workforce infrastructure and reinforce governance capacity. They are required to report back on their progress to the UN General Assembly in 2023.
The UHC declaration was announced only 24 hours after the WHO and partners flagged the need to double the levels of health coverage between now and 2030 or risk leaving up to 5 billion people unable to access healthcare.
“Universal health coverage is a political choice: today world leaders have signalled their readiness to make that choice. I congratulate them,” Dr Ghebreyesus said.
Speaking about next steps, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates, said: “Now that the world has committed to health for all, it’s time to get down to the hard work of turning those commitments into results.
“We all have a role to play. Donors and country governments need to move beyond business as usual to bolster the primary healthcare systems that address the vast majority of people’s needs over their lifetimes.”
On 24 September, WHO and 11 other multilateral organisations — a group collectively channelling one third of development assistance for health — launched their Global Action Plan for health and wellbeing for all.
The plan is aimed at ensuring the 12 partners provide more streamlined support to countries to help deliver universal health coverage and achieve the health-related sustainable development goals.